Looking through fresh eyes

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Imagine: The sirens and giant voice announce the defensive postures. You struggle to don your gas mask, and you feel your heart beating out of your chest and the sweat dripping in your eyes. For a moment you are scared that you won't make it.

You feel the pressure of the wing inspection team members, or WITs, as they evaluate you. Knowing you are being tested on your reactions, there is no room for error. So you carry on.

While most Airmen have completed this numerous times throughout their careers, some have never participated in an event such as this. The training they received in Basic Military Training is not nearly as strenuous as working at home station.

On top of the stress of the different defensive measures they must know, they also have a real world job they are required to accomplish all the while under simulated protective postures. WITs devise several scenarios for Airmen, and grade them on their performance.

"My role as the group chief is to coordinate all exercise injects for the nine Fighter Wing Staff agencies who participate in exercises," said Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs superintendent. "This is a mission I take to heart, my job is to ensure photojournalists and broadcasters are fully prepared to execute both an advisory and combat camera role in any kinetic environment."

During the mission, Airmen quickly react to the scenarios to the best of their abilities. Even when the task is foreign to them, they trust their knowledge and training. Pushing through and using their resiliency, they work to move the mission along.

"I'm looking for compliance, but, more than that, I'm looking for common sense and understanding the situation," said Wallace. "The idea that Airmen will always operate at a location with bunkers and run from incoming fire is very foreign and unrealistic to me. When fired upon, I'd like to see Airmen ready to pick up their rifle and fight back. Taking a life may be hard to do, believe me when I say I understand that notion."

"Our job is to prepare for a deployment situation [such as] a possible chemical and biological weapons attack," said Airman 1st Class Austyn McNeil, 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist. "We might have to get into mission oriented protective posture gear very fast."

With new Gunfighters getting into the deployment mindset, they quickly react to stressful situations thrown at them.

"When they jumped into action, I saw someone pull out their Airman's Manual," said Master Sgt. Judy Payne, 366th Fighter Wing Legal Office superintendent.

During exercises such as this, commanders made a point to have their Airmen ready for any situation. Their concern is getting them what they need to complete the mission.

"During the exercise, my focus is to get the maintainers the resources they need to do the job," said Lt. Col. Jeremy Saunders, 366th AMXS commander. "If there is an attack, I need to get them everything they need to turn aircraft and to get them in the air with the proper bombs loaded."

Moving through the countless hours and the grueling workdays, Gunfighters pushed forward.